I spent almost five years in the United States Army. This sounds cooler than it was because being in the JAG Corps meant that I spent most of my time behind a desk.
However, I didn’t mind so much — particularly during my technical training. I would look out the window from my air-conditioned classroom and see the soldiers marching by slowly melting in the inescapable furnace that is South Carolina in July.
The longest part of my day (being a Central Valley boy who had never been exposed to the torture that is humidity) was having to endure the short march to the dining hall to which I would inevitably show up completely drenched in sweat.
Standing there being refreshed once again by the air-conditioning, I remember looking at a mural showing a soldier from each war the United States had participated in, with one of the Army Values written next to them.
The first soldier was, obviously, from the Revolutionary War — the conflict embodied by the Declaration of Independence and celebrated by us all this week. The value that was written next his image was “loyalty” and the slight grin that came across my face three times a day when the Drill Sergeant wasn’t looking showed that the irony of combining revolution with loyalty was not lost on me. After all, wasn’t the Revolutionary War all about breaking loyalty with England to become an independent democracy?
However, the more that I have thought about it, I have realized that perhaps “loyalty” was the perfect word after all. The Revolutionary War was a time that not only challenged everyone’s allegiances, but also asked if their allegiances were worth dying for.
While we can be grateful that we do not live amid active conflict, this war of loyalty is one that has been going on long before the Revolutionary War and has continued since. Jesus said some crazy things about this like, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
And then again just a little later says, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:26-27, 33; ESV). Now, most will argue Jesus doesn’t mean he wants us to actually hate our families, selves, and lives. Rather, we can agree that He is using hyperbole to say that true loyalty to Him makes all other loyalties, by comparison, look like hatred.
Wait…what? Come again? Isn’t this the “love your neighbor” guy? Where does He get the audacity to claim such allegiance from those people? From me? From you? What is so good about being loyal to Him that is worth all our life and all our love? A reaction like this would be reasonable. But if you ask these questions, then don’t forget that something has your loyalty right now, and are you sure it’s worth it?
If you care to continue a conversation about Jesus, why we think He is worthy of our loyalty, you can always find a way to reach us at www.csclb.org. Give us a call, drop us an email, or stop by on a Sunday. Wishing you a happy and safe Fourth of July from your friends at Cornerstone Church Los Banos!